Have you ever wondered how successful investors choose individual stocks? What’s the thought process that goes into their decision? What do they look for when adding to their portfolio? How do they know when it’s time to sell?
Netvest is a new mobile app for Android and iOS that aims to demystify investing by putting a stable of investors on your mobile device. Step behind the curtain and watch these experts manage their own portfolios in real time. Learn from them as they explain their decision-making process in detailed posts on the live-feed. And track their results over time.
The app is ideal for anyone who wants to get hands-on with their portfolio, who wants the thrill—and the reward—of managing their own investments, but wouldn’t mind some guidance in the form of eight hand-picked experts to the sometimes bewildering world of the stock market.
These experts, “Netvestors” as they’re called, range from tech industry heavyweights to an attorney and a professional dog walker. They each have their own distinct investing philosophy and aims. You can choose the Netvestor closest to your own style and goals or follow them all.
It’s like joining an investment club with eight of your smartest friends. You can watch over their shoulder as they buy and sell individual stocks, and explain their thinking. You can even ask questions via the comment system. A personal watchlist lets you track your own stocks and get immediate access to the opinions of the Netvestors on your picks.
Unlike traditional financial advisors or portfolio managers who collect a commission on trades or a percentage of assets under management, Netvest simply charges a nominal flat monthly fee. Strictly speaking they don’t even offer investment advice. Instead they usher you into the private thought process of the Netvestors, and you’re free to pick and choose your own investments inspired by their example.
The app is free for the first month. In a refreshing change from the status quo, you don’t even have to provide billing information to sign up. If you haven’t joined by the end of your trial month, your subscription simply lapses. If you do sign up, the fee is just $20 per month, and you can cancel at any time.
Netvest is currently a mobile only app, with native clients available for Android and iOS. The two apps serve as clients to a backend written in node.js. There are no current plans to make a web version, though there is a web page—Netvest.com—where users can manage their membership, and potential users can sign up or learn more about the service.
The iOS app is written in Objective-C and supports iOS 8 and later. The developers considered Apple’s new Swift language, which was then in version 2. But the release of version 3 was imminent, and the update would have required substantial changes. They also anticipated potential problems with important third-party libraries, which often lag behind language updates, and ultimately settled on Objective-C as the more stable option.
Caching plays an important role on the server side and the native clients.
Over the course of development, the app’s main screen, the Feed screen, evolved from a simple, text-only listing of investor updates to a complex, multi-media presentation with formatted text, clickable hyperlinks, images and stock charts.
The initial, stripped-down design allowed for the use of self-sizing table cells with Auto Layout in iOS, and made for a simple and responsive UI. But to support formatted text, the backend had to serve HTML, which in turn had to be parsed, causing an unacceptable lag in scrolling.
Switching from automatic to manual table cells improved the scrolling speed immediately. Auto Layout sometimes requests the cell height twice, so manual calculation is faster. Plus the results can be cached for reuse, saving even more time. And manual cell building is also quicker, especially when there are multiple subviews within a cell.
To alleviate the slow parsing of HTML formatted text, the app pre-fetches and pre-parses the text data. When the user scrolls, the parsed data is already available, and the scrolling is smooth and responsive.
The backend also takes advantage of caching to manage the massive amount of stock market data. Data retrieved from the stock market data aggregator is cached, and repeat requests are served from the local cache to improve response time.
The Android app was developed in Java in parallel with the iOS app and supports Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) and later, following Google’s Material Design guidelines for a contemporary look and feel in line with other popular apps. It would have been an enormous challenge to optimize a cross-platform framework under such conditions. Individual native apps provided a much smoother user experience.
Though the two apps were developed independently, they did share some quality assurance and project management tools: HockeyApp, for beta distribution and crash analytics; Jenkins, for continuous integration; and JIRA for issue tracking and project management.
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